Using Rice Water on Plants: A Complete Guide


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Rice water is a nutritional kitchen byproduct which can be used to fertilize plants and promote plant health because of the minerals and vitamins it contains.

Rice water can be used to water plants because it provides a sufficient amount of (NPK) fertilizer and minerals for plants to effectively use while promoting a healthy bacteria population. This results in healthy plant growth. It can also be applied using any method and can also ward off unwanted pests when fermented.

Rice water has many different compounds and fatty acids that give it the flavor that its known for.

In this article we are going to explain the benefits of using rice water on your plants, how to make your own rice water, as well as the methods of application to achieve the best results.

When applying rice water to my plants, I use a cost effective and durable watering can that I got on amazon which makes watering fun and easy without any spillage.
You can find it by clicking here.

MyLifeUNIT Plastic Watering Can green

The Benefits of Using Rice Water on Plants

Using Rice Water on Plants
  • Environmentally friendly Source of fertilizer for plants
  • Easy to obtain and readily available (from everyday cooking)
  • Allows us to reuse waste material from the kitchen.
  • Save on the cost of purchasing Fertilizer
  • Prevents burns associated with inorganic fertilizer application
  • Promotes healthy bacteria population within the soil
  • Organic method of pest control
  • Can be applied through Top watering, Bottom Watering or Misting.
  • Boosts plant growth 
  • Increases fruit and crop production

Another underutilized kitchen byproduct is banana peels. Applying banana peel water to your plants adds the macro nutrient Potassium(K), which promotes photosynthesis and water transport in plants.
This saves you from buying fertilizer while organically treating plant nutrient deficiency.
See the helpful article on the benefits of using banana peel water on plants.

I also use boiled egg water on my plants in addition to rice water and banana peels because it adds calcium to the mix. This is an essential mineral used by plants for stronger stems and leaves.
Here is my detailed article describing how to use boiled egg water on plants.

What is Rice Water?

fermented rice water

Rice water is the water derived either from the boiling or washing rice. Rice is a well known food staple and feeds millions everyday.

Many people worldwide prefer to wash their rice before it is cooked because of the processing. Some are skeptical that during processing there are the workers who walk and trample the rice with dirty shoes and work apparel before it is bagged. 

It is purely optional in my opinion. But if you think that there is some questionable handling in the way that rice products are manufactured you can also wash the rice before consumption.

Washing the rice first allows the “rice dust” from the manufacturing process to dissolve into the water.

The dust is simply whole rice grains that have been pulverized by the constant mixing and movement of the grains from the point of processing to when it reaches your home.

Rice water can also be obtained after boiling. Now this is also an optional case where you can strain out the water from the rice after it is boiled or you can just leave it to soak back into the rice grains.

The rice water contains starches and beneficial nutrients and many people do not strain the excess water away from boiled rice for this reason.

However, the strained water after boiling rice is also beneficial to plants and it contains more nutrients than the rice water derived from only washing.

How to Make Rice Water?

You don’t have to use the rice and throw it away. Rice water can be obtained as a byproduct of your everyday cooking routine and it reduces waste by reusing the remnants of the rice from washing or soaking.

Rice water can be made from either washing the rice grains or from straining the excess water out after the rice is boiled, as previously explained.

These are the two methods commonly used for obtaining rice water

Rice water from Washing or Soaking

Soaking is one of the quickest ways to make rice water as it just entails placing the rice into some water to soak.

Use this method for obtaining rice water from washing:

  1. Use ½ cup of uncooked rice (or the quantity of rice from your cooking recipe)
  2. Place into a small bowl
  3. Add 2–3 cups of water in the bowl with the rice.
  4. Rinse the rice thoroughly for 2 – 3 minutes
  5. Leave to soak for 30 – 45 minutes
  6. After soaking stir the water to agitate and mix any settled nutrients
  7. Strain the rice water into a clean bowl

Rice water from Boiling

Use this method to obtain rice water from boiling 

  1. Take ½ cup of uncooked rice (or the quantity of rice from your cooking recipe)
  2. Place the rice in your normal rice cooking pot (not rice cooker)
  3. Stir properly
  4. Place on medium heat (350 oF)
  5. Allow to boil for 30 – 45 minutes
  6. Strain the rice and save the water residue

If the resulting residue is too thick you can also add water to thin it down for addition to your plants.

Rice water obtained from boiling would contain more nutrients than the water obtained from washing. This is because the heat from boiling causes more nutrients from the rice to be leached into the water.

Make watering your plants fun and easy with this cost effective watering can.

MyLifeUNIT Plastic Watering Can black amazon

How is Rice Water Beneficial for Plants?: Explained

Rice water contains a small amount of fertilizer, NPK, which are the essential nutrients needed by all plants and would have a favorable effect on any garden by accelerating plant growth and increasing crop production.

The starches in rice water also provide the plant with necessary carbohydrates that can be stored in the plant’s cell membrane until they can be used for energy while at the same time promote helpful bacteria such as lactobacilli and mycorrhizae that can already be found to pre-exist in the soil, to thrive by providing a source of food.

The most common type of rice in the United States, white rice is long-grain rice that has been milled to remove the outer husks and the bran layers. 

Parts of the Rice Grain

Parts of the rice Grain

The Hull

Each grain of rice is enclosed in a tough outer hull, or husk, that needs to be removed before it can be consumed. 

Rice hulls are the husks that are removed from each grain of rice after harvest. The hulls are then parboiled at a high enough heat to sterilize.

This hull is the most beneficial to plants especially when used as a mulch. 

The Bran

Under the hull, the bran layer is not removed in all rice types. This nutritious whole grain section is usually tan-colored, but it may be reddish or black depending on the pigmentation in the bran layers.

White Rice

Once the bran and germ layers are removed, white rice remains. Known as the endosperm, this is the part of the rice that is most commonly consumed. 

Although some people use this part of the rice grain as a soil amendment, it is not recommended and can have some negative effects on the soil which we explain later on.

The Germ

Found under the hull, the germ, or rice kernel, is nutrient-dense. Full of B vitamins, minerals, and proteins, it helps give rice its color and added nutritional benefits.

Although this may mean that the rice itself contains fewer nutrients and fiber, it is beneficial to plants as the water would still contain nutrients and minerals contained in the white parts of the grain.

The nutrients in 60 grams of cooking rice are as follows –

NutrientsBrown riceWhite rice
energy82 calories68 calories
protein1.83 g1.42 g
total lipid (fat)0.65 g0.15 g
carbohydrates17.05 g14.84 g
fiber, total dietary1.1 g0.2 g
sugars, total0.16 g0.03 g
calcium2 milligrams (mg)5 mg
iron0.37 mg0.63 mg
sodium3 mg1 mg
fatty acids, total saturated0.17 g0.04 g

What about using rice as a soil amendment? We have written a well researched article on how to use rice as a soil amendment, which you will find very helpful.

Now that we’ve seen how the rice grain is made up and what it contains. Lets see how these nutrients are beneficial to our plants.

List of key points on how rice water benefits plants – 

  • The carbohydrate compounds in rice are made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen and other elements. 
  • Carbohydrates are also known as complex sugars
  • Bacteria love these sugars and they will thrive in such an environment that food is abundant.
  • Bacteria help break down organic material in the soil into usable nutrients for plants to grow
  • With an increased bacterial growth in the soil more nutrients will be made available for plants from the breakdown of these carbohydrates.
  • There is an increased nitrogen (N) along with phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and other minerals in the soil for the plant to use.
    • (N) Nitrogen is part of the chlorophyll molecule, which gives plants their green color and is involved in creating food for the plant through photosynthesis.
    • (P) Phosphorus is involved in several key plant functions, including energy transfer, photosynthesis, transformation of sugars and starches, nutrient movement within the plant
    • (K) Potassium is important for cell reproduction and protein synthesis which give plants the energy to grow.
  • The result is increased health and growth rate.

Using Rice Water with Succulents 

Rice water can be used to water succulents while adding vital nutrients at the same time. The rice water should be thinned so that it can be applied as a spray as succulents require more dry aerated soil. 

Succulents can be misted with a solution of rice water during their normal watering schedule.

Succulents require a small amount of water and nutrients at any given time. Misting succulents with rice water is a sure method of providing them with the benefits of rice water without being overwatered and causing problems associated with overwatered soil.

How to Mist Succulents with Rice Water 

  1. Any household spray bottle can be used as long as it is cleaned properly.
  2. The rice water should be thin enough for the spray bottle to expel the water
  3. Add the rice water in the spray bottle
  4. Spray or mist the plant on the top as well as the underside of the leaves
  5. Also, spray the top soil with the rice water.

Misting should be done during the morning periods or late evenings to allow the plant to absorb the moisture and nutrients. This also prevents the heat of the day from drying out the moisture too quickly.

Bottom Watering with Rice Water

Bottom watering plants with rice water is another way plants can benefit from rice water. Bottom watering will allow for the rice water to be absorbed thoroughly into the soil without having it in an overwatered state. In doing so, the total mass of the plant roots will be able to access the nutrients provided by the rice water.

Plant absorbing water from bottom watering

How to bottom water with rice water

  1. Use a a small, flat container two inches larger than the plant pot
  2. Place the plant into the container
  3. Add the rice water so that the water level reaches 1 to 1 ½ inches high on the side of of the plant pot
  4. Allow the plant to sit in the water for 15 to 20 minutes
  5. After the time has passed stick your finger in and test the soil for moisture
  6. Once you feel that the soil is moist (not wet) you can remove the plant.
  7. Place the plant to drain out any excess water 

See our helpful article on how to apply fertilizer when bottom watering.

Interested in bottom watering trays? I have found durable trays which worked well for all my plants. You can click here to see them on amazon.

10 Plant Growing Trays

The Effect of Rice Water on Plants

The effects of rice water on plants is attributed to the nutrient available in the rice water when added. The plant will readily absorb the minerals from the rice water while the bacteria in the soil will break down the carbohydrates into simple nutrients for the plant to use. The result is increased plant growth and fruit production.

As a result rice water can be used as a fertilizer which will help to increase crop yield while feeding the plant roots, making it grow stronger, healthier and more resistant to diseases.

The best time to apply rice water is before the crop has started its growth cycle. The growing period for crops, especially in the North american climate spans from the beginning of spring to the end of fall. 

During this time frame plants are most active and require food and nutrients to carry about their biological activities and rice water can be an environmentally friendly and waste free way to provide plants with the food they need to grow.

Plants that Rice Water is Effective on

Rice water can be effective on all plants as it provides vital nutrients for plant growth. However the method of application would differ depending on the type of plant that it is being applied to.

PlantWatering Method
SucculentsMisting
Indoor PlantsMisting, Top Watering, Bottom Watering
Garden Plants Top watering, Soil application via Sprayers.

What are the Precautions When using Rice Water

When using rice water in the soil you should always ensure that the water is at ambient or room temperature so that it does not kill the bacteria in the soil and harm the plant. This precaution is applicable if you are using the water from boiled rice.

Additionally, rice water is a  good additive to soil but care must be taken when watering as it can be easy to overwater the soil which can lead to root rot and yellowing of the plant leaves.

Our recommendation is using the bottom watering method to ensure that the plant is getting the right amount of water for optimal growth.

Using Fermented Rice Water as a Pesticide

The benefits of using fermented rice water has been proven to encourage a good bacterial population which in turn promotes healthy root growth.

Additionally, fermented rice water produces a sour alcohol-like aroma which wards away unwanted pests like lizards, snakes and iguanas from the garden.

Insects like fruit flies, gnats, plant lice, flea beetles, aphids and other pests can be reduced using fermented rice water as the alcohol from fermentation acts like an irritant to these small insects which can also kill them.

How to make Fermented Rice Water

  1. Use any available jar
  2. Fill ¾ of the contents with rice water
  3. Mix in 1 teaspoon of sugar with the rice water
  4. Mix in 4 tablespoons of milk
  5. Cover the jar and allow it to sit for 3 – 4 days
  6. After the time has passed the solution will turn from opaque to translucent.

The Takeaway

Rice water can be very beneficial to plants by adding valuable minerals and nutrients to the soil just as good as using egg shell water. It helps increase bacterial growth which in turn breaks down organic compounds within the soil making nutrients easily available for plants to use.

Rice water can be obtained from either soaking the rice in water or through boiling and is a cost effective method in providing plants with organic fertilizer.

Additionally, it can be applied through any watering method both on indoor plants and in the garden.

Rice water can also be used as a pesticide which can ward off large pests in the garden and even small flies, gnats and flea beetles.

The overall result of using rice water on your plants is healthy growth and increased fruit and crop production.

JayLea

JayLea has a passion for plants and has been running his aquaponic system since 2015. He has valuable knowledge about gardening and houseplant care and can answer everyday practical questions that every plant owner has.

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